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From the author of What to Eat and Shopped, a revelatory investigation into what really goes into the food we eat.Even with 25 years experience as a journalist and investigator of the food chain, Joanna Blythman still felt she had unanswered questions about the food we consume every day. How ‘natural’ is the process for making a ‘natural’ flavouring? What, exactly, is modi From the author of What to Eat and Shopped, a revelatory investigation into what really goes into the food we eat.Even with 25 years experience as a journalist and investigator of the food chain, Joanna Blythman still felt she had unanswered questions about the food we consume every day. How ‘natural’ is the process for making a ‘natural’ flavouring? What, exactly, is modified starch, and why is it an ingredient in so many foods? What is done to pitta bread to make it stay ‘fresh’ for six months? And why, when you eat a supermarket salad, does the taste linger in your mouth for several hours after?Swallow This is a fascinating exploration of the food processing industry and its products – not just the more obvious ready meals, chicken nuggets and tinned soups, but the less overtly industrial – washed salads, smoothies, yoghurts, cereal bars, bread, fruit juice, prepared vegetables. Forget illegal, horse-meat-scandal processes, every step in the production of these is legal, but practised by a strange and inaccessible industry, with methods a world-away from our idea of domestic food preparation, and obscured by technical speak, unintelligible ingredients manuals, and clever labelling practices.Determined to get to the bottom of the impact the industry has on our food, Joanna Blythman has gained unprecedented access to factories, suppliers and industry insiders, to give an utterly eye-opening account of what we’re really swallowing.


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From the author of What to Eat and Shopped, a revelatory investigation into what really goes into the food we eat.Even with 25 years experience as a journalist and investigator of the food chain, Joanna Blythman still felt she had unanswered questions about the food we consume every day. How ‘natural’ is the process for making a ‘natural’ flavouring? What, exactly, is modi From the author of What to Eat and Shopped, a revelatory investigation into what really goes into the food we eat.Even with 25 years experience as a journalist and investigator of the food chain, Joanna Blythman still felt she had unanswered questions about the food we consume every day. How ‘natural’ is the process for making a ‘natural’ flavouring? What, exactly, is modified starch, and why is it an ingredient in so many foods? What is done to pitta bread to make it stay ‘fresh’ for six months? And why, when you eat a supermarket salad, does the taste linger in your mouth for several hours after?Swallow This is a fascinating exploration of the food processing industry and its products – not just the more obvious ready meals, chicken nuggets and tinned soups, but the less overtly industrial – washed salads, smoothies, yoghurts, cereal bars, bread, fruit juice, prepared vegetables. Forget illegal, horse-meat-scandal processes, every step in the production of these is legal, but practised by a strange and inaccessible industry, with methods a world-away from our idea of domestic food preparation, and obscured by technical speak, unintelligible ingredients manuals, and clever labelling practices.Determined to get to the bottom of the impact the industry has on our food, Joanna Blythman has gained unprecedented access to factories, suppliers and industry insiders, to give an utterly eye-opening account of what we’re really swallowing.

30 review for Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry's Darkest Secrets

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maru Kun

    Two events opened my eyes to the malign influence of neo-liberal ideology on the modern world and the concomitant growth of corporate power. The first was the global financial crisis, proving that an unaccountable rent seeking financial services industry was intent on fattening itself out of our savings regardless of the consequences to the world economy. The second was finding out that my ‘Greek Style’ yoghurt was not strained yoghurt but rather ordinary yoghurt with added starch. What a con. If Two events opened my eyes to the malign influence of neo-liberal ideology on the modern world and the concomitant growth of corporate power. The first was the global financial crisis, proving that an unaccountable rent seeking financial services industry was intent on fattening itself out of our savings regardless of the consequences to the world economy. The second was finding out that my ‘Greek Style’ yoghurt was not strained yoghurt but rather ordinary yoghurt with added starch. What a con. If you ever looked at a pot of “Greek Style” and “Greek” yoghurt side by side – as I did that fateful Sunday morning of political awakening - you would know the difference immediately. ‘Greek Style’ yoghurt still attracts a premium price over ordinary yoghurt despite being made of cheaper ingredients – milk plus starch rather than milk alone. This is what three decades of free market ideology has brought us. So if, like me, you have ever wondered whether the processed food industry really had your best interests at heart this book will confirm your worst fears. The food industry cares about your health in the same way that the financial services industry cares about your retirement money – as a source of potential profit to squeeze like an extended shelf-life peach until a useless husk remains. “Swallow This” peels the plastic lid off the carton of microwavable, ready-to-eat mystery-meat-curry-for-one that is the British processed food industry and takes good sniff at the contents. It doesn’t smell good. What are the common themes that run through every food processing technique the book examines? Health, flavor and food-safety perhaps? Miserliness, deception and profit maximization is more like it. Miserliness involves replacing real food with cheaper alternatives at every opportunity. Every stage in the manufacture and distribution of processed food is a chance to fob-off the consumer by replacing what the home cook would call “food” with a cheaper substitute. This might be something to bulk up the product (water or starch), replace more expensive ingredients (Butter Buddies - taste forty times stronger than real butter at a fraction of the price) or cover up the resultant unappetizing mess (flavorings, colorings, enzymes, whatever). Deception comes in many varieties: disguising the unappetizing result of industrial production with flavorings and colorings; “cleaning the label” – trying to replace E-numbers with so-called natural alternatives that you would never find outside a high tech chemical laboratory; extending shelf lives through the use of chemical coatings or inert atmospheres. The end result on the plate never looks like what’s on the packaging. In the processed food industry words take on new meanings: “natural” means “extracted in bulk using industrial solvents from ingredients too low in quality for the supermarket”; “fresh” means “coated with nanoparticles and packaged under inert gas”. Profit maximization is what it is all about. In food processing we have reached the absurd limits of the shareholder value movement: the only stakeholder that matters is the stockholder; consumer health is so low on the list of priorities as not to count. The most important contributor to the bottom line isn’t the chef but the political lobbyist. Is escape from this world of industrial food production possible? It is becoming increasingly difficult given techniques reach all the way back to the orchard, and the meadow (or should I say the battery shed and the intensive feed lot). A good first step is learning to cook. Take some care over your cookbook selection and search out some of the excellent YouTube cooking channels. Below are some I can recommend from personal experience. It’s taken me around two years to become a half decent home cook but if I can do it, anyone can: The best Italian cookbook out there: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking Great recipes, so simple to do - there is a reason why this is in the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame: The New Book of Middle Eastern Food FoodWishes on YouTube – Chef John is just a wonderful human being. Good luck.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Online Eccentric Librarian

    More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ With Swallow this, author Blythman presents a thoroughly researched and informative book on everything that goes into store bought or restaurant food (in other words, anything you didn't grow yourself). With a distinct EU/UK perspective, nearly every chemical (whether listed on a food label or not) is exhaustively researched, cataloged, and collected into intelligent groupings for easy reference. For the most part, sh More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ With Swallow this, author Blythman presents a thoroughly researched and informative book on everything that goes into store bought or restaurant food (in other words, anything you didn't grow yourself). With a distinct EU/UK perspective, nearly every chemical (whether listed on a food label or not) is exhaustively researched, cataloged, and collected into intelligent groupings for easy reference. For the most part, shock tactics and Exposé histrionics are eschewed in favor of common sense observations, making for a more grounded piece. More interestingly, since Blythman is UK-based, this is a revealing book that shows the EU really isn't all that better than the US in controlling everything from GM to chemical additives that could be harmful or deadly through long term exposure. The book breaks down as follows: Part One: How the processed food system works (why it all tastes the same, on the factory floor, clean label, at the food maker's market, fresh in store); Part Two: The defining characteristics of processed food (sweet, oily, flavored, colored, watery, starchy, tricky, old, packed). About 30% of the text is the carefully compiled references at the end. Much of the book revolves around how preparation practices have changed to make food cheaper and last longer - often by replacing whole ingredients with chemical vestiges of the original or cheaper alternatives. Most revealing is not so much the chemicals themselves but the extraction methods that use very toxic chemicals (e.g., breaking milk down into 'milk proteins) to accomplish the purpose. Also interesting was the last decade mission of manufacturers to 'clean labels' in order to turn chemical sounding ingredients into more palatable 'natural' sounding names. Those switches were eye opening; a 40 letter chemical name could often be turned into something more pleasant such as "rosemary extract", a chemical which really has nothing to do with rosemary but instead slows down the rate at which foods go rancid (e.g., a preservative). Because the author went to specialized 'food fairs' that aren't open to the public (for obvious reasons), she was able to obtain a lot of information on the chemicals that aren't listed on a label - those used in packaging (e.g., specialized chemical 'air' to keep produce fresher) or during the production process that are supposed to dissipate by the end. Even fresh food (e.g., lettuce), has a lot of chemical coatings by the time it reaches the produce section. Or 'fresh' baked bread at the supermarket arrived there frozen and just popped into an oven. Swallow This presents an interesting quandry for the modern age and a topic that I would have liked to see addressed as well. To whit, without the chemicals and innovation that make food cheaper and last longer, how would we feed the global population? But at the same time, are we engineering our own destruction (cancer, diabetes, etc.), a 'prosperity plague' of the modern age? So while I am glad to read Blythman's book and understand more about what goes into the food I buy at the store, I wish the book wasn't such a one-sided indictment against the food industry. There is so much more to the topic. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zee Monodee

    My goodness, what an eye-opener about the world of processed food! If I'd have needed any convincing that we're all better off making out own food (and from scratch, too!), then this would've been the wake-up call! Almost everything that's processed or manufactured not by Nature is a truckload of chemical stuff and/or additions of stuff that has absolutely no logical reason (for consumers! Mind, for the producers, the reason is increased profit by using less costly ingredients!). You'll never lo My goodness, what an eye-opener about the world of processed food! If I'd have needed any convincing that we're all better off making out own food (and from scratch, too!), then this would've been the wake-up call! Almost everything that's processed or manufactured not by Nature is a truckload of chemical stuff and/or additions of stuff that has absolutely no logical reason (for consumers! Mind, for the producers, the reason is increased profit by using less costly ingredients!). You'll never look at pre-prepared, pre-packaged, pre-cooked, processed, ready-made food the same way ever again, and this is a must-read for anyone whose at the very least a little bit conscious of the food they are putting into their bodies.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    In brief, the horrifying message of this book is: it's almost impossible to avoid artificial food ingredients, even if you're diligent about checking labels. Food processors are wise to this, and change the names of items to sound healthier, or add chemicals classed as 'processing aids' so they don't have to declare them on the label. In brief, the horrifying message of this book is: it's almost impossible to avoid artificial food ingredients, even if you're diligent about checking labels. Food processors are wise to this, and change the names of items to sound healthier, or add chemicals classed as 'processing aids' so they don't have to declare them on the label.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I've read other books by Joanna Blythman and I respect her work usually, but this book has really annoyed me. She has visited the food manufacturing plants and tried to drill down in the ingredients in the shops and come to the conclusion that the food industry is taking us for a ride, selling us non foods. To a certain extent, I agree with that, but it is nowhere near as simple as she makes it. I don't think I can bring myself to read the whole book, but nowhere so far has she addressed the con I've read other books by Joanna Blythman and I respect her work usually, but this book has really annoyed me. She has visited the food manufacturing plants and tried to drill down in the ingredients in the shops and come to the conclusion that the food industry is taking us for a ride, selling us non foods. To a certain extent, I agree with that, but it is nowhere near as simple as she makes it. I don't think I can bring myself to read the whole book, but nowhere so far has she addressed the consumers' role in demanding these new foods. We spend less per capita of our household income on food than any other European country- we want quantity and variety, but we are not prepared to pay a fair amount for these foods and we are not prepared to take the time it takes to make these foods ourselves. I live on a smallholding - I'm mainly plant based and grow a lot of my own food. I do keep a few chickens and eat some of the eggs. I do my own baking and cook my own dishes. It is very time consuming and it is not necessarily a cheap way to live, to buy good ingredients for the items I do need to buy. Most people would not be prepared to go to that effort. But - previously - I had another life. I was a development chef in, what was at the time, the largest chilled food factory in Europe. Contrary to the info in this book, potatoes arrived covered in earth in containers - tonnes at a time and were processed through the potato plant. No one peeled them - there is a rumbler to do that- would you want to peel tonnes of potatoes? Even the eyes are taken out by machines. But those spuds were fresher than any you can buy usually and were cooked and cooled at optimum temperatures. Yes, we use different crumbs and batters in manufacturing for sure, but that is because breadcrumbs left coating a chicken in a CPET for a week would turn into mush. The ingredients need to be functional. If you want to buy a chicken kiev on Monday and eat it Friday, this is the price you, as the consumer will pay. If you want to buy croissants, fruit tart, fairy cakes and a sourdough loaf from an in store bakery and you think they are making all of those things from scratch everyday, you would have to be daft! And I can assure you, you would be paying a lot more for them. That's why a croissant from a French bakery costs at least double what you would pay here, even in a top flight supermarket. People don't want to do that. And where the author complains that a lot of the ingredients going into a food factory are already prepared and then in the next breath bemoans the product recalls and food safety issues - well, specialists process lemons in the country of origin because it is cheaper AND there is more traceability, therefore allowing a safer production environment. I'm not protecting the food industry - but we have asked for this cheap variety - they are providing it. Vote with your feet and things will change, but truthfully, I think people like their ready made carbonara and sticky toffee puddings and if you made them in the traditional way and tried to heat them up 6 days later, they probably wouldn't be safe and they wouldn't taste good. Factory procedures allow us that convenience. If you don't like it, make your own when you get home from work. But tell me, where did the bacon and eggs come from that you bought to put in your own version? Where is the pasta from? Is that real Parmesan? See, you can drill back as far as you like - at least they're not chucking in lead and plaster like the good old Victorian days. And OMG, if you make a soft fruit jam at home, you will need to add pectin - otherwise it will never set!!! I have never ranted about a book so much in my life - but really - try going without "manufactured" food for a week and see how you get on. Will you buy raw milk? Will you grow your own beans? What residues are in the soil of your garden? We have built our own food destiny - it will take decades to change, but it will HAVE to be consumer led and I think we are generally not prepared. I can't deny there are some abominations dreamt up in factories though - chicken tikka pizza, anyone?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jennet

    Anyone who eats food should read this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tocotin

    Bad Food Britain is one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books, so I was excited to read this one. Sadly, it’s a disappointment for me. It lacks the richness and variety of sources, the human touch which made BFB so interesting and vivid. This book consists mostly of descriptions of various benign and not-so-benign food additives, hammering on and on about how ubiquitous and how overlooked they are, in a slightly too flippant style I didn’t care much for. I appreciate the effort to explain so Bad Food Britain is one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books, so I was excited to read this one. Sadly, it’s a disappointment for me. It lacks the richness and variety of sources, the human touch which made BFB so interesting and vivid. This book consists mostly of descriptions of various benign and not-so-benign food additives, hammering on and on about how ubiquitous and how overlooked they are, in a slightly too flippant style I didn’t care much for. I appreciate the effort to explain some of the more hermetic chemical substances and the things they do – I’m not an expert and I don’t know much about chemistry, I read this book mostly because I like food – but there were some things that raised my eyebrow, for example this: “The third problematical ingredient is gelatin. It’s anathema to observant Muslims, Jews and vegetarians, and even secular omnivores may be wondering what this by-product of porcine hides is doing in their pudding.” Gelatin has been used in cooking for the long time now, what is there to be wondering about? Also, it is sourced not only from pig skin, but also from other animals’ skin, bones, and connective tissues. And I’m a bit surprised that this recently written book completely ignores veganism. Vegetarianism is so last century. I read it awhile ago, so I don’t remember much about it, but it took me a long time to finish and yes, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d expected I would.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    For someone who already distrusts the food industry this didn't add much new. I did learn that the prepared food section of a grocery store may be about as bad as packaged foods. Whole foods seems to be more transparent/better than other stores in this area, but I should remember to not quite trust their prepared foods either. This is not without bias. For example, she announces with repulsion that there is calcium carbonate in a product. She says something to the effect that calcium carbonate co For someone who already distrusts the food industry this didn't add much new. I did learn that the prepared food section of a grocery store may be about as bad as packaged foods. Whole foods seems to be more transparent/better than other stores in this area, but I should remember to not quite trust their prepared foods either. This is not without bias. For example, she announces with repulsion that there is calcium carbonate in a product. She says something to the effect that calcium carbonate comes from chalk. While this is trueish (it can come from a rock like limestone), calcium carbonate was added with the good intention of being a calcium source. I am not sure how horrible that is. Calcium carbonate is poorly absorbed but wikipedia doesn't seem too concerned about it's use (at least relative to other calcium sources). The author also goes into food establishments and asks for food lists for all of their products and acts disgusted when they don't give it to her. It seems either foolish or aggressive to assume that a business would aid such a request (let me help you write your expose). Asking for one food at a time, explaining that you have allergies to numerous additives would be more likely to get a response and seem less antagonistic. It seems like the author can't get over her vitriol long enough to think this way. All that being said, my guess is the food industry is as bad as depicted in the book if not occasionally worse. This is a great introduction to the topic and worth a read to those unfamiliar with it, just expect bias.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Karen Ross

    SWALLOW THIS is far more chilling than a Stephen King novel. Her thesis is that the ready meal industry is more about speciality chemicals than it is about nutrition. Lots about how the industry is moving towards 'clean labels' i.e. the death of E numbers, which we all know are BAD, replaced by more benign descriptions, which are equally BAD. When I finished reading the book, I immediately went to my fridge, freezer and cupboards, and started throwing things out. Even that catchy Marks & Spencer SWALLOW THIS is far more chilling than a Stephen King novel. Her thesis is that the ready meal industry is more about speciality chemicals than it is about nutrition. Lots about how the industry is moving towards 'clean labels' i.e. the death of E numbers, which we all know are BAD, replaced by more benign descriptions, which are equally BAD. When I finished reading the book, I immediately went to my fridge, freezer and cupboards, and started throwing things out. Even that catchy Marks & Spencer advert music is taking on a sinister note now . . . If you cook from scratch, you don't need this book. (Try THERE'S ONLY TWO DAVID BECKHAMS instead; it's hugely funny.) If, on the other hand, you're seduced by the promise of the chill cabinet (and even, alas, the 'in-store bakery' offerings), it's a must-read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    Recommended to anyone who is interested in where our food actually comes from. Beware, it will put you off a lot of processed foods!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tristan Sherwin

    I’ve swallowed this, but it’s going to take me sometime to digest the shocking things Blythman reveals about the processed food industry. Especially the amount of chemicals that are not only used as main ingredients, but that are also used in refining those ingredients in the preprocessing stage, and that are used in our food’s packaging (which subsequently seep into our food). Food companies don’t have to declare these of course (as some of them aren’t ingredients per se but trace remnants of pr I’ve swallowed this, but it’s going to take me sometime to digest the shocking things Blythman reveals about the processed food industry. Especially the amount of chemicals that are not only used as main ingredients, but that are also used in refining those ingredients in the preprocessing stage, and that are used in our food’s packaging (which subsequently seep into our food). Food companies don’t have to declare these of course (as some of them aren’t ingredients per se but trace remnants of processing journey), and they have clever ways of finding legal loopholes that allow them to toy with the information they put on their packaging. The FSA aren’t too concerned in certain cases either, because, they say, trace amounts of ‘this’ and ‘that’ won’t do any harm. But one wonders how many “trace” amounts, upon “trace” amounts, upon “trace” amounts of hexane, asbestos, titanium dioxide and arsenic etc., our physiology is able to withstand before the problems kick in. And if the research is to be trusted, it’s not much; with the list of ailments including: hyperactivity, obesity, diabetes, Chohn’s and cancer. Of course, we could avoid processed foods altogether and just plunder the produce from the “fresh” fruit and veg aisle, or bakery, or in-store butcher of our local supermarkets. However, even there, the appearances and labels aren’t what they seem to be. As I said, I’m still processing what I need to do with all this information. But maybe Blythman’s own advice hits the nail on the head: “These days, cooking is a powerful political statement, a small daily act of resistance that gives us significantly more control of our lives.” (p. 17) Overall, this a fantastic, eye-opening piece of investigative journalism. —Tristan Sherwin, author of *Love: Expressed*

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I enjoyed this book and was shocked to discover how many things could be added to even relatively unprocessed food without featuring on the label. However, I think the first half is more successful than the second. The chapter about enzymes seems to view added enzymes as a de facto bad thing (which they may or may not be), but in highlighting potential issues, there is no definitive issue identified (it is all this could be a problem) and also no mention is made of the fact that enzymes will nat I enjoyed this book and was shocked to discover how many things could be added to even relatively unprocessed food without featuring on the label. However, I think the first half is more successful than the second. The chapter about enzymes seems to view added enzymes as a de facto bad thing (which they may or may not be), but in highlighting potential issues, there is no definitive issue identified (it is all this could be a problem) and also no mention is made of the fact that enzymes will naturally be involved in traditional food pro excesses that rely on living organisms eg bread, cheese, alcohol and also in our food itself. In the chapter on chemicals, I thought too much was made of how bad things sound when using proper chemical names and names of reactions - I'm sure most long established traditional food production could be made to sound unappetising that way too.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrea James

    I think I read books like these to keep me to cooking from scratch as often as possible. As with most books in this genre, there is some sensationalist language but in the main it's reasonably readable and the author highlighted some points that I'd either forgotten or never known. The biggest reminder for me is to question the apparently "clean" labels on products. There are things that food manufacturers have to include on their label and things (such as additives used in the processing of the I think I read books like these to keep me to cooking from scratch as often as possible. As with most books in this genre, there is some sensationalist language but in the main it's reasonably readable and the author highlighted some points that I'd either forgotten or never known. The biggest reminder for me is to question the apparently "clean" labels on products. There are things that food manufacturers have to include on their label and things (such as additives used in the processing of the ingredients but not added to the final product) that can be excluded.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    A bit repetitive in parts, it could've been shorter and I was left longing for some sort of conclusion or advice but I really enjoyed the read and recommend it to all in order to educate yourself on what you're eating. It makes me want to never buy anything processed ever again. A bit repetitive in parts, it could've been shorter and I was left longing for some sort of conclusion or advice but I really enjoyed the read and recommend it to all in order to educate yourself on what you're eating. It makes me want to never buy anything processed ever again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Guess who prioritizes profits over consumer health. Everybody! Learn about some of the things that are done to our food, added to our food, surround our food, leach into our food, and render cheaper ingredients into inexpensively marketable "food." Bon appétit! Guess who prioritizes profits over consumer health. Everybody! Learn about some of the things that are done to our food, added to our food, surround our food, leach into our food, and render cheaper ingredients into inexpensively marketable "food." Bon appétit!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Keen

    4.5 Stars! “PSE in pigs is caused by severe, short-term stress just prior to slaughter, for example during off-loading, handling, holding in pens and stunning. Here the animal is subjected to severe anxiety and fright caused by manhandling, fighting in the pens and bad stunning techniques. All this may result in biochemical processes in the muscle, in particular, in rapid breakdown of muscle glycogen and the meat becoming very pale with pronounced acidity and poor flavour.” But don’t worry the Bel 4.5 Stars! “PSE in pigs is caused by severe, short-term stress just prior to slaughter, for example during off-loading, handling, holding in pens and stunning. Here the animal is subjected to severe anxiety and fright caused by manhandling, fighting in the pens and bad stunning techniques. All this may result in biochemical processes in the muscle, in particular, in rapid breakdown of muscle glycogen and the meat becoming very pale with pronounced acidity and poor flavour.” But don’t worry the Belgian company Veos has a solution for this in the red blood cells it sells for colouring meat to disguise that tired looking old flesh. Bon apetit! Blythman uncovers food that is closer to the industrial than the gastronomical, reliant more on engineering than the culinary, in spite of the ludicrously misleading claims, myths and lies touted on the packaging and promotion. We see how producers and sellers are happy exploiting loopholes, distorting truths, semantic gymnastics and plain ole BS helps to keep shareholders happy and the consumers ignorant. We see the importance placed on promoting a “clean label” with a product. So this means BS in real terms, desperate to avoid E numbers and anything else which can potentially cause a “label-polluting” effect. So what the means that in this dark and deceptive landscape enzymes become “rice extract”, Rosemary extracts contain an E number (E392), but manufacturers prefer to call it “extract of rosemary”. She tries to get straight answers from the bakeries at M&S and Greggs, and both were looking rather ridiculous by how guarded their PR was and how ignorant their staff was. Other dubious revelations include a story done in 2013 by the Guardian which revealed that the major British supermarkets were selling perfectly legal frozen chicken breasts with 18% added water, meaning consumers were paying 65p a kilo of water, whereas another British paper believed figure to be even higher, working out at £1.54 a kilo. Her experience with the likes of the British sugar lobby, Sugar Nutrition UK, was dark, they do what all big corporations do when confronted with uncomfortable or embarrassing facts, they hire lawyers and PR and made unreasonable demands of her, including a request for scientific evidence that sugar could cause tooth decay. These companies have developed terrifying new chemicals in the neotame (8,000-13,000 times sweeter than sucrose), or advantame (37,000 times sweeter than sugar), both totally legal thanks to the EU. Then take the example of NautureSeal, this product when sprayed on fruit and veg, allegedly extends shelf life by around 21 days. We also learn that, “because NatureSeal is classed as a processing aid, and not an ingredient, there is no need to declare it on the label.” Of course the major problem is that the consumer and the general population have been failed by regulators and governments for a long, long time and they continue to be failed, we have put our faith and trust in people who are paid to protect the public, but all too often they behave as if they are protecting corporations, and time and time again they come up short, whether it be the NHS coming out with bizarre and outdated information about choosing margarine over butter or all sorts of unpredictable chemicals being snuck into food under misleading names by food giants. I thought the section on enzymes was really interesting, apparently over 150 are used by the food and drink industry, and of course the opacity around their use ensures the public has very limited information about possible allergies and other issues relating to them, and so they cannot make informed decisions for themselves. The Enzyme Technical Association sums up it nicely, “The importance of enzymes in everyday life is one of today’s best-kept secrets.” The biggest question surely relates to regulation, and the take home message of this book is that you cannot trust anything on a label, unless you have personally sourced your food, you really have no idea what they are putting in there, and too many people have a vested interest in keeping it that way, and as for the regulators and governments, looking at their track record, they tend to only intervene after the damage has been done or unless it threatens their job. Even though I've read a number of these kinds of books, I still found plenty to shock and intrigue me in here. Without doubt this is one of the better ones in a very crowded market. I really enjoyed Blythman’s writing style, her frank and eloquent approach cuts straight to the point, and she isn’t afraid to slip in a bit of creative humour, pulling out some wonderfully colourful and eccentric lines, such as, “bagged salads swoon like a Victorian heroine when exposed to natural air.” and “Toxins, just like bad luck and playground bullies, gang up, and when they do, the results aren’t pretty.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eoin Flynn

    Quite a frustrating book. Undoubtedly raises genuine issues with the food industry. The lack of knowledge of the negative biological effects of nano particles is an area of research particularly close to my heart. Similarly, issues with plastic packaging, certain preservatives, and other compounds that end up in our shop bought foods are true problems. The lack of effort or oversight from regulators and the power of food industry lobbyists to hinder the former is again a massive problem. However Quite a frustrating book. Undoubtedly raises genuine issues with the food industry. The lack of knowledge of the negative biological effects of nano particles is an area of research particularly close to my heart. Similarly, issues with plastic packaging, certain preservatives, and other compounds that end up in our shop bought foods are true problems. The lack of effort or oversight from regulators and the power of food industry lobbyists to hinder the former is again a massive problem. However, the author constantly undermines herself because she doesn't understand the science behind what she's criticising. She is food critic, not a scientist. This is not always automatically a problem, but Blythman too often relies on listing a series of industrial methods without any explanation, hoping that the scientific terminology will scare the reader. Only for the fact that she doesn't make ghostly "oooOOOooo" noises at the end of such sections does it not become entirely comical. Chromatography is a method of analysis. It doesn't go into our food, it is often a means to allow regulators to find out what bad things are actually in our food! Filtration and concentration are not evil methods just because you use technical terms for them! They're regularly used in household cooking too make jams, consommé, and wine! An infuriatingly ignorant book in places. Only read if you have a good background in chemistry, biochemistry, or food science and can separate fact from scaremongering.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Biggus

    This would be a reasonable read for someone who doesn’t know much about what goes on in Big Food. On the other hand, the book has some problems, the main one being that the author obfuscates, tells half-truths, and misinforms, which are the very things she (rightly) accuses Big Food of doing. I’ll cut her some slack, because I think this is done because she just hasn’t done all of her homework, and relied too much on ‘what she knew already’ aka confirmation bias and dogma. It sounds like I am ba This would be a reasonable read for someone who doesn’t know much about what goes on in Big Food. On the other hand, the book has some problems, the main one being that the author obfuscates, tells half-truths, and misinforms, which are the very things she (rightly) accuses Big Food of doing. I’ll cut her some slack, because I think this is done because she just hasn’t done all of her homework, and relied too much on ‘what she knew already’ aka confirmation bias and dogma. It sounds like I am bagging her, but that’s a bit unfair, because all she is trying to do is to get across a simple basic principle. JERF. Just eat real food. You don’t even need a book for that. Meat, veg, fish, fowl, nuts, seeds, nut oils, olive oil. Nothing man made, nothing your grandparents would not have recognised as food. No sugar, no grain. That’s it. Oh, and cook it yourself! Simple. The narrator manages to come up with some truly bizarre pronunciations, but that is now the norm not the exception. I’d say that Nina Teicholz’ book, Big Fat Surprise, would be a better read for those who are new to the topic of ‘what we should be putting in our mouths’, which in a way is the opposite of this book, which is all about what we shouldn't put in our mouths. Big Fat Surprise isn’t about Big Food’s tricks per se, and once you take its contents on board, Big Food’s tricks won’t matter to you anyway. Then read Gary Taubes’ The Case Against Sugar, because everyone on the planet needs to read that.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I found this to be an interesting insight into the murky world of food production/technology, but it is a challenging read at times due to the scientific and technical nature of a lot of the information. The book highlights how far processed food is from the natural equivalent and makes it clear that even seemingly 'unprocessed' foods in the supermarkets are still treated and processed in some way to prolong shelf life - making it easier to understand why it generally tastes of very little. The p I found this to be an interesting insight into the murky world of food production/technology, but it is a challenging read at times due to the scientific and technical nature of a lot of the information. The book highlights how far processed food is from the natural equivalent and makes it clear that even seemingly 'unprocessed' foods in the supermarkets are still treated and processed in some way to prolong shelf life - making it easier to understand why it generally tastes of very little. The problem that the book skirts around but never really makes clear is that most people don't care to know about this. Convenience in food wins out for many and that is the problem - food technology is responding to consumer desire for safety and convenience which happens to be congruent with the industry desire for profit. Maybe we should spend some time finding out why people eat and shop the way that they do? The book does inspire me to further cut back my reliance on the supermarket and to start cutting back even further the convenience foods that I buy - apparently mayonnaise is easy to make perhaps I'll start there.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    A critical examination of the food processing industry and its impact on the foods we buy in grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, and anywhere else pre-prepared foods are sold. Also goes into the impact of packaging and shelf-life extending chemicals, atmospheres, dips, etc. Much of this information is very difficult for consumers or even journalists to find out, and the author had to pose as an industry insider to get much of the information. Moreover, many additives don't appear on food labe A critical examination of the food processing industry and its impact on the foods we buy in grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, and anywhere else pre-prepared foods are sold. Also goes into the impact of packaging and shelf-life extending chemicals, atmospheres, dips, etc. Much of this information is very difficult for consumers or even journalists to find out, and the author had to pose as an industry insider to get much of the information. Moreover, many additives don't appear on food labels; for example, if they are classified as part of product processing or packaging, they aren't required to appear. The food industry, aware that consumers want more "natural" products are coming up with new additives (or rebranding old ones) with names that sound very innocuous on the label. This is a worthwhile book that allows you to be a more informed and careful shopper.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Bax

    Very interesting insight in the food industry. Blythman makes you think about and question the modern food production. 'Fresh' has a different meaning now than a few years ago, changing from 'this strawberry was hanging at a plant yesterday' to 'this strawberry is picked almost a week ago but is treated with chemicals so it looks like it was hanging at a plant yesterday'. The food industry masks its toxic traces with smart product names. However, I do think that also Blythman's accusations should Very interesting insight in the food industry. Blythman makes you think about and question the modern food production. 'Fresh' has a different meaning now than a few years ago, changing from 'this strawberry was hanging at a plant yesterday' to 'this strawberry is picked almost a week ago but is treated with chemicals so it looks like it was hanging at a plant yesterday'. The food industry masks its toxic traces with smart product names. However, I do think that also Blythman's accusations should be read with a critical eye. She is very good in generalising assumptions. Furthermore, the quantity of typos makes me wonder whether she did her research as thoroughly as her editor did her proof reading.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dominic Forbes

    Thought-provoking and interesting. However the author has a very clear agenda and is writing for the converted, I found the tone of the writing reflected that occasionally. Frequent use of scary chemical names for common things "ethanol" for alcohol etc. Read it with an open mind and some knowledge of science and decide which industry interventions and practices are the most worrying to you. Obviously there is a profit motive, but surely there is also some benefit to reducing food waste by exten Thought-provoking and interesting. However the author has a very clear agenda and is writing for the converted, I found the tone of the writing reflected that occasionally. Frequent use of scary chemical names for common things "ethanol" for alcohol etc. Read it with an open mind and some knowledge of science and decide which industry interventions and practices are the most worrying to you. Obviously there is a profit motive, but surely there is also some benefit to reducing food waste by extending shelf life and suchlike? Has made supermarket shopping an altogether more frustrating experience as more products now appear suspect and we thought we already had quite a healthy trolly!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mwalkes

    Blythman "stomached" more horror than many could tolerate to research this book. For the last ten years I have read about antics related to our food system, but the information in this book tops all. It is beyond belief that the "food" system is so polluted in every way. Reading ingredients is a real exercise in futility. Blythman's fact filled 'documentary' deserves a good review, however, those prone to depression or anxiety probably better pass on this one. Blythman "stomached" more horror than many could tolerate to research this book. For the last ten years I have read about antics related to our food system, but the information in this book tops all. It is beyond belief that the "food" system is so polluted in every way. Reading ingredients is a real exercise in futility. Blythman's fact filled 'documentary' deserves a good review, however, those prone to depression or anxiety probably better pass on this one.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amit Kukadia

    Uncomfortable and fascinating. You will think twice when you eat now A fascinating and extrenely uncomfortable read. I will be trying to make my own food wherever I can and buy organic. We should all try to be vogilant with what we eat. I was squirming in my seat at tomes when i read what was being done to my beloved fruit and veg. The words of my grandparents about eating simole foods and the foods you make kept coming to mind.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Demba

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERN ABOUT THE FOOD YOU EAT, THIS IS A MOST READ. AS WE ALL KNOW HOW CHALLENGING IT IS FOR US TO AVOID PROCESS FOOD. ‘SWALLOW THIS’ IS REALLY AN EXPOSÉ ON THE WHOLE FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRY (DR. JOANNA BLYTHMAN) REVEALS WHAT REALLY GOES IN OUR FOOD THAT THE FOOD MANUFACTURERS DON’T REALLY WANT US TO KNOW.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    Couldn't finish it. It's a great eye-opener and very detailed - but gets a bit technical and dry, I must admit. I lost interest and focus very quickly as a result, as I am essentially a layman on the subject. Couldn't finish it. It's a great eye-opener and very detailed - but gets a bit technical and dry, I must admit. I lost interest and focus very quickly as a result, as I am essentially a layman on the subject.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julie Hudson

    Very enlightening and shocking about how the processed food industry works - using tasting solutions instead of ingredients. I'd like to say I'd never eat any processed food again and become a vegan but it is unlikely and I have a short memory. Very enlightening and shocking about how the processed food industry works - using tasting solutions instead of ingredients. I'd like to say I'd never eat any processed food again and become a vegan but it is unlikely and I have a short memory.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aileen (Ailz) Grist

    Thought Provoking After reading a couple of Joanna Blythman's books we have cut back on our processed food. Eating real food is better for us and for the planet, provided that the food has been grown or been fed in a real way. Thought Provoking After reading a couple of Joanna Blythman's books we have cut back on our processed food. Eating real food is better for us and for the planet, provided that the food has been grown or been fed in a real way.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Salwarpe

    Good assessment of the actions taken by the food industry to achieve clean labels for their products. Just because it's not listed on the ingredients, didn't mean there hasn't been a whole range of junk used to produce the stuff that's on supermarket shelves. Good assessment of the actions taken by the food industry to achieve clean labels for their products. Just because it's not listed on the ingredients, didn't mean there hasn't been a whole range of junk used to produce the stuff that's on supermarket shelves.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wan Shoo

    It's an eye opener that brings us into every nook and cranny of food processing. There is no harm knowing more of what you have been consuming, no one can run away from commercial food development. Swallow the facts and decide for yourself. It's an eye opener that brings us into every nook and cranny of food processing. There is no harm knowing more of what you have been consuming, no one can run away from commercial food development. Swallow the facts and decide for yourself.

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